Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Nonprofit Pedal Ahead provides free e-bikes for low-income study participants

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Electric bikes can cost thousands of dollars. Far too expensive for people on a tight budget — unless they’re part of Pedal Ahead, a San Diego-based nonprofit founded in 2020.

“It saves me a lot of money and wear and tear on my vehicle,” said Christopher Castor, a program participant.

Pedal Ahead’s “Loan to Own” program gives low-income families access to e-bikes at no upfront cost if they agree to ride at least five miles a day for two years and track those rides for a study and to share that will help make cities more e-bike friendly.

“The data allows you to really define how individuals ride, not just take a dead bike lane and repave it and say, ‘We have more bike lanes,'” said Ed Clancy, founder of Pedal Ahead. “Data will define how people drive and where they drive, and hopefully cities will adopt that.”

Participants must purchase their own bike insurance, which can cost around $15 a month, but after two years of riding, the bike is theirs.

For people like Carla Crudup, stepping out of a vehicle and onto her e-bike has opened her eyes to the world around her.

“You see small shops, landscaping and flowers. It’s just fantastic,” she said.

Since the program began, Pedal Ahead has distributed 400 e-bikes across San Diego County, representing 170,000 miles of cycling.

Now the program is running nationwide as part of a $10,000 e-bike incentive program.

Clancy is excited to see what the expansion will bring.

“We’re only seeing positive benefits across the board for communities that wouldn’t even consider having an e-bike, but we’ve seen that the e-bike can be the tool for a solution to many things,” he said.

Replacing short car journeys with e-bikes can help improve the environment, and e-bike performance makes cycling possible for people like Everett Crudup, who knows how restrictive life can be when a heart condition like his makes training difficult .

“It is very liberating to sit on this bike. It gives me legs that I don’t normally have,” he said.

Pedal Ahead’s Loan to Own program doesn’t just provide an e-bike. Safety training, bike tuning and repairs are offered to beginners to encourage continued use.

But the path to ownership creates options for better financial health.

As Carla Cruddup points out, “It allows people to get on a bike that, while expensive, certainly has its benefits and durability in the long run.”

“I have a lot more freedom when I have one like this,” Castor added. “It’s like having a car. You can go anywhere. You can get on a train with it, so… it’s great.”

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